First re-upholstery project: There’s a first time for everything…

I’ve always wanted to learn how to re-upholster furniture.  It all started with a sofa that we had when I was a kid that was super(!) comfy, but so ugly you wouldn’t believe.  (As a side note, she tried reupholstering it years later and actually managed to make it even uglier.  It was later relegated to being the “dog sofa,” and just thinking about it makes me sad.)  Nevertheless, an obsession with upholstery was born!

Flash forward 25+ years, and you find the adult Leah learning how to do just that thanks to 3rd Ward in Williamsburg.  This is my first project:

I found this mid-century beauty on the street in Philadelphia about 5 years ago tossed out with someone’s garbage.  It was perfect except for a big rip in the seat, and so I towed it home with me.  I knew that one day I’d redo that vinyl upholstery with something better.  Like they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

So starting on Saturday, I began the process of deconstruction.  This is what it looked like after I got the back panel off.  The back was basically a piece of cardboard covered with vinyl tacked on with upholstery tacks.

Then I took off the bottom panel.  There were several layers of fabric to get through here funny enough, and one of the great things I found inside was a stamp dating the chair to Oct 1959.  (Pretty cool!)  The springs are serious heavy duty with metal attachments like the kind you have in a mattress…not the normal 8-way hand-tied springs in most upholstery.  (This chair is meant to last forever!)

So this is the chair fully deconstructed.  The legs & arms were attached via two bolts and six flat-head screws.  Less than what I would have thought, but very easy to disassemble once the fabric was off and the frame was exposed.  (The frame is oak I believe by the way which is also interesting…for those other furniture nerds out there.)  The seat springs were covered with a horsehair “cushion” for lack of a better word (which I plan to re-use since it’s perfectly fine…but I will be augmenting it with new foam and batting).  I did keep all the cotton batting too “just in case.”  Also, I plan on re-finishing the arms/legs since the old polyurethane is worn off and looking ratty.

Now the big question is what do I put on it?  I’m debating between several at the moment.  I love those thick wool fabrics in both solid colors and blanket squares too.  Then I’ve found a couple more that are interesting, but nothing concrete yet.  Any suggestions?  Someone suggested leather…but possibly too difficult for my first round of upholstery.  (?!?)

p.s. if you haven’t looked into 3rd ward, i highly suggest it.  They have awesome classes on almost everything.

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365 Messages of Love

It’s wonderful being surrounded by creativity each day.   And I can truly say that one of my favorite creative / talented individuals is my friend Nishat Akhtar.  In the process of trying to work on my own wedding invitations, I love stopping by to see what Nishat is up to…and this little something just made me smile so much that I felt compelled to share it with the rest of you.

She created this daily love note box for her newlywed friends.  It was inspired by old slide & specimen containers.  The box contains 365 tiny envelopes, each containing a note about love, excitement, or adventure, one for every day for their first year of marriage!  How amazing is that?!  I absolutely love it.  How much would you love to have one of these for yourself?

See more about Nishat and her talent here.

Duh! How did I forget to officially post “after” pics of my guest room?!

It’s been almost a hundred years since we actually finished the guest room, but I just realized that I never officially posted the “after” pictures of our work.   (If you like to snoop like me, then you may have already poked around my flickr and seen them, but since 99.9% of you don’t do that…I thought it might be nice to share.)  And because everyone needs a healthy dose of perspective, here are the BEFORE shots:

Pretty bluesy, right?  I mean…those mirrored closet doors made me want to poke an eye out.  (Not to mention one of them had broken glass.)   Anyways…so here is our AFTER shots:

Yes, you are correct our floors are slightly slanted…as is easily visible in shot #2.  Also, here’s the post showing the original inspiration for the guest room makeover.  On a completely un-related note, Nick has decided that whenever someone comes to visit and stays in our guest room he’d take a portrait of that guest(s), and we’d start a portrait collection.  And here’s the first one he did to celebrate our first guest since the room’s overhaul.  (It’s my best friend and soon-to-be maid of honor Ashley.)

And of course, all photo credit for the AFTER shots goes to Nick.   All the BEFORE shots….well those were all mine.  🙂

Thoughts on paint removal

As I mentioned previously, it’s been almost a year since we first started the bannister scraping process.  We got seriously discouraged after using Peel Away because although it did help remove the paint, it also created a bigger mess/hassle than it was worth.  A goopy slurry (as we called it) ended up on the floor and lots of other places too.  And at the end of the day, the scraping process was kind of becoming a smearing process.  Ugh.  Yuck.

So after our long winter hiatus, we tackled it again…with nothing more than a little elbow grease this time.  And I’m proud to say that it turns out that just a plain ole scraper + some muscle was the best combination for quickly removing the paint.

Our main tool of choice was the one shown in the first photo.   It was really able to get the majority of the paint off and done really quickly.   The second spackle knife (second photo) was smaller and better at detail work in the curvy parts.  Now we’ve basically gotten the entire bannister railing paint free.  We just need to sand it down and polyurethane it.  (I’m considering using tung oil on it since it worked so well for my kitchen floors.  Not sure yet which way to go on this one.)

Anyways…that’s the update.  I felt compelled to give a final analysis of it.  My friend Marisa also swears by the heat gun, which I’ve not used before…but may consider borrowing next time I have a lot of surface area of paint to remove.

Once we get the whole thing sanded down and finished, I’ll post final pics.

Which home improvements can save you money on your taxes?

Well, I had no idea that my little window upgrade could also save me some bucks come tax time!!  According to this Forbes magazine article, there are a number of improvements you can make to your home to improve energy efficiency that will save money come tax time.  Oh…and of course, they’ll save money on your bills too!!

So clearly, many of the things on this list most of us won’t be able to do such as install a wind turbine in our backyard.  However, I was extremely pleased to find out that with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 increased the credit from $200 to $500 for upgrading your old windows to new energy efficient ones.   Now if only that $500 tax credit could be put towards installing a new geothermal heating system…  I’d love to not have to pay so much money to the gas company each month!

Thanks to Charles & Hudson for pointing out the article!  I was planning on starting my taxes tonight!

In Progress: Guest Room

First, let me say that I dislike showing photos of my house looking disheveled and ripped apart.  I realize that is part of the draw [for all of us] in reading a house blog, but it’s just that I find it somehow embarrassing as if I’m being caught picking my nose.  You know?  People gawk and stare…but not in that good way.   At any rate, in spite of not feeling as if I have anything great to show, I also feel as if real pictures (meaning warts & all photos) of my house are overdue.  So here you go.

I’ve been furiously trying to work on my guest room in time for my mother to come and visit, but the house seems to be fighting against me.  It’s as if this room just doesn’t want a nice, beautiful paint job…and to be decorated.  I present to you exhibit A.

The walls in this room are just all kinds of frustrating.  First off, they’re plaster… underneath a layer of wallpaper… underneath two layers of paint.  Sounds great, huh?   However, it’s not the painted wallpaper that bothers me, as you might think.  No, the wallpaper is actually the thin paper kind…so the fact that it’s been painted over isn’t that big of a deal.  Besides a few seams that I’m having to cut out and sand over, it’s not that bad.  It’s just that underneath this window I have a slight bit of dampness that has come in from the windowsill and it’s made the old stuff separate from the wall.  Therefore I’ve been scraping and will have to spackle it, sand it smooth….etc etc.  Oh, and did I mention that I’m also struggling to find the perfect shade to paint the walls?  Why is choosing a paint color sometimes the hardest part of the job?  For the record, I think Martha Stewart does a great job with her paint swatch program at Lowes.  (And if you’ve got lots of expendable cash to throw around, I love Farrow & Ball’s paint colors.)

Did I mention that my mom arrives this Friday?  Yeah….guess what is NOT getting done by then?  I’ll probably end up doing as much work as I can this week after work, cleaning up the mess, putting clean sheets on the bed, and calling it a day.  Not exactly how I’d like for her to spend her Thanksgiving in my guest room, but for now it’s going to have to do.  On the bright side, the first time she came to visit I had no working bathroom.

Anyways…to give you an idea of what I hope for it to look like some day in the future, here’s my inspiration images ripped from the pages of various magazines:


Wish me luck as I keep plugging ahead.

Back in the saddle…positive attitude restored + closet update

After my semi-breakdown last evening, I went to work today and had a co-worker send me an instant message telling me that she hears I’m a “home renovator extraordinaire.”   She said that if I had a minute or two, she’d love for me to come to her desk so that I could give her some home decorating advice.

Hmmm….well, first of all I was flattered that someone that I work with (and doesn’t read this blog) gives me credit for such a thing.  Second, I went down to speak with her and it turns out that she’s considering buying a house in my neighborhood and it’s a handyman’s special (to say the least).  After looking at the pictures of her potential project, it gave me A LOT of perspective on my own house as well as my own bellyaching.   I realized that I didn’t have it that bad after all and should probably zip my lip [on the complaining tip].  Anyways, it felt great to be able to chat with her (a first time homeowner) and give her some thoughts on what she was getting herself into, etc.  It reminded me of my freelance gig, and how natural it felt to be helping someone out with these types of questions.

Also, thanks for everyone’s comments giving me moral support.  You know, it’s odd…there are support groups for new mothers, support groups for dieting, and support groups for alcoholics, but there are no support groups for people who are trying to learn how to renovate their old houses!  It seems like a good idea, right?!

Oh…and seeing as how I never posted the pics of my closet mini-facelift, I’ll go ahead and post them now.  Continue reading “Back in the saddle…positive attitude restored + closet update”